Psychological Pitfalls

I’ve noticed a common theme from the side that is trying to counter this movement about justice for George Floyd, specifically, and social justice and equality for systemically oppressed populations, generally. That is, I noticed a theme of one-sideness and selection bias being rampant.

For example, to the latter point, people are selectively choosing to focus their attention toward anything but the deep, painful, raw, and pervasive issue at hand; instead, people resisting this sort of societal change are gravitating toward anything that they can use as a suitable straw man. Therefore, their arguments are usually highly fallacious, so it is better to limit engagement in these psychological trenches so the forward momentum can remain unified and targeted on the true goal: Justice.

The former point of one-sideness is intertwined with the biased selectivity outlined above; however, it delves somewhat deeper into the human psyche. Cognitive dissonance is the state of holding two opposing beliefs simultaneously, and it is well-documented that this phenomenon influences a multitude of human behaviors, because it makes people so uncomfortable that they are motivated to seek change. Unfortunately, inherent to life is constant change. Therefore, trying to resolve the tension produced by opposing forces through fortifying, or doubling-down, on a single point or node that is polarized toward a specific side is ultimately self-defeating. It is as if one is so disturbed—and, consequently, dysregulated (out of balance)—that balance is subjectively restored through the solidification of a single position. Furthermore, this single position is then fallaciously used and treated as if it is inherently self-sufficient.

Let’s take an example to further illustrate what is being said by this point. Take the example of rigid and flexible. If I were to resolve the tension between these two opposing forces by deciding that rigidness is all that matters, then this would be an example of being one-sided. However, if I were to take one more movement in this cognitive direction and decide that I was so happy by the security and comfort from believing in only rigidness, then I can start to discredit the existence or the necessity of flexibility.

We should pause at this point. It is quite easy to carry on from this line of thinking, transforming into subsequent arguments; however, at this point in the example, we have reached a point where, if we were to proceed, it would be rooted in a false dilemma; that is, there is not an argument originating from categories that exist in pairs of opposites. To belabor this point further, one cannot start with a premise that is rooted in a belief that the end is better than the means; particulars are better than universals; permanence is better than change; product is better than process; and individual is better than social.

For any of the above examples, as well as any other family of oppositions, to proceed with an argument that one side is better or worse than the other is starting an argument from a false dilemma; therefore, nullifying any subsequent arguments, premises, or conclusions made after the fact.